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"THE SINGING DETECTIVE"
(2003) (Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Wright Penn) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Heavy Extreme *Mild Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Heavy Moderate Moderate Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: As a novelist recovers from a debilitating medical condition, a hospital psychiatrist tries to make heads or tails of his convoluted psyche that includes troubling childhood memories, hallucinations featuring full blown musical numbers and imagined views of his screenplay about a singing gumshoe.
PLOT:
Dan Dark (ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.) is a crime novelist who's hospitalized due to a severe case of psoriatic arthropathy, a crippling disease that's left his skin horribly scarred and his hands curled up into useless appendages. While the hospital's Chief of Staff (ALFRE WOODARD) and especially Nurse Mills (KATIE HOLMES) care for his body, staff psychiatrist Dr. Gibbon (MEL GIBSON) tries to figure out what's swirling about in the bitter man's head.

Beyond memories of his mother, Betty Dark (CARLA GUGINO), having an affair with her husband's coworker and then she and young Dan leaving home and setting off for another city, the writer has concocted an imaginary world. There, it's the 1950s and he's a singing gumshoe hired by Mark Binney (JEREMY NORTHAM) to investigate the murder of Nina (ROBIN WRIGHT PENN) by two hoods (ADRIEN BRODY & JON POLITO)

Not surprisingly, she looks quite a bit like Dan's real estranged wife, Nicola (ROBIN WRIGHT PENN), who's attempting, along with her lover (JEREMY NORTHAM), to steal his screenplay adaptation of his novel, The Singing Detective.

Confronted by childhood memories of Dan's past, imagined scenes from his screenplay and hallucinations featuring full blown musical numbers, Dr. Gibbon tries to sort out the convoluted psyche that simultaneously drives yet stymies Dark's state of mind and being.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or the original BBC series, it doesn't seem likely that any but some curious older teens might be interested in it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong sexual content, language and some violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. plays an angry and bitter writer who's suffering from a crippling medical condition that's left his skin horribly blistered and his hands useless. He smokes, uses strong profanity and has various hallucinations and fantasy moments of him being a singing detective back in the 1950s.
  • ROBIN WRIGHT PENN plays both his estranged wife who's trying to steal his screenplay with her lover and a woman who's murdered in the past. She uses strong profanity.
  • MEL GIBSON plays the hospital psychiatrist who attempts to help Dark sort through his convoluted psyche.
  • ADRIEN BRODY & JON POLITO play two hoods who kill Nina and are constantly after Dark the singing detective.
  • JEREMY NORTHAM plays both the man who hires Dark in the past as well as his current wife's lover.
  • KATIE HOLMES plays a compassionate nurse who tends to Dark in the hospital.
  • CARLA GUGINO plays Dark's mother who had an affair in the past and moved away from home with her young son.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 27 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are uttered. Various instances of sexually related dialogue are present, as are several rather graphic sexual encounters (with movement, sounds and brief/partial nudity) and other sexual material.

    Violence consists of several murders (by shootings, a drowning and an off-camera stabbing), while several people strike others. Some of that has bloody results (while a man has horrible blisters on his skin) and may be unsettling or tense for some more sensitive viewers. Various characters drink and/or smoke, while some have varying degrees of bad attitudes. Finally, some tense family material is present (a boy leaving home with his mother after watching her have an affair, an estranged marriage, etc.).

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • A man has a drink in a bar.
  • Among things Dark says he believes in are masturbation, liquor and nicotine.
  • Dark thinks of piņa coladas when he tries to get his mind off of sex.
  • Miscellaneous people have drinks.
  • Binney has a drink.
  • Dark and Binney have drinks in the past.
  • Dark drinks in the past.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Throughout the movie, we see various views of various parts of Dark's horribly blistered skin. At first, he appears to be a burn victim (his hands seem to be permanently curled shut), but his skin condition improves through the movie until he eventually has normal looking skin. Later, we see young Dark with some blistered skin/sores on his arm.
  • We hear the sound of vomiting.
  • A goon tries to shoot Dark who steps out of the way just in time. A band member, however, is hit in the neck and we see blood spurting out from around his hands at his neck.
  • We see a tiny bit of blood from a woman's mouth after she's been shot.
  • A man pushes Dark's mom back, slaps her once and we hear more such slaps. We later see her bruised and bloodied face.
  • We see a knife sticking out of a dead man on a couch that has blood in it, as does a nearby wall.
  • A gun battle breaks out between Dark and two men, with Dark shooting one in the head (we see blood from around his hand).
  • We see a little bit of another person's blood on a person's fingertip.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some goons murder a woman. They later rough up Dark.
  • Dark refers to The Chief of Staff as a black feminist lesbian.
  • Dark's mom had an affair in the past and then she and young Dark set off for California on a bus.
  • A man pushes Dark's mom back, slaps her once and we hear more such slaps. We later see her bruised and bloodied face.
  • Nicola and Binney have redone Dark's screenplay for themselves without any credit to him.
  • A goon refers to Dark as a "cripple."
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" might also be unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers, but most are played in such a weird/surreal fashion that much of the impact is lessened when not entirely eliminated.
  • Throughout the movie, we see various views of various parts of Dark's horribly blistered skin. At first, he appears to be a burn victim (his hands seem to be permanently curled shut), but his skin condition improves through the movie until he eventually has normal looking skin.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Knives: Carried and/or used to threaten, wound or kill others. See "Violence" for details.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "What the f*ck are you trying to do, tear me open?" "(You) Go f*ck yourself," "F*ck you," "F*cking bingo," "Where the f*ck is this?" "One f*ck-up after another," "One sick f*ck," "Dog shit," "D*ck head," "Bitch," "Balls" (testicles), "Cuckoo house," "Shut up," "Dame," "Whore," "Fruitcake," "Shove it up your ass," "You bitch," "Two-bit slag bitch," "Oddball," "Nuts" (crazy), "Bastards," "Sucker," "The hell with it," "Pissing in the wind," "Schmuck," "Greaseball," "Jeez," "You sick little creep" and "Shut your pie hole."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 27 "f" words (2 used sexually as is the term "screw"), 7 "s" words, 6 slang terms using male genitals ("c*ck," "d*ck" and "pr*ck"), 2 slang terms for breasts ("t*t"), 5 hells, 2 asses, 1 damn, 2 uses each of "G-damn," "Christ" and "Oh God" and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes," "Jesus," "Oh Jesus," "Oh my God" and "Swear to God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A goon asks if a guy gets to "screw" a woman first (before they go in) and the other goon says, "Yeah, she can be coming and going at the same time."
  • From a distance, we see Binney and a woman having sex on a couch (with movement and sounds, but no nudity as he's between her legs) and he calls her "bitch" as they continue. She then complains and asks, "What the f*ck are you trying to do, tear me open?"
  • We see Dark in what looks like a large diaper in a hospital bed.
  • We see some women in their bras during an imagined musical number. We also see a man thrusting against a female patient (front to back) and another briefly doing the same on top of a woman (no nudity and apparently just humping and not sex).
  • Dark makes a comment about a dead girl being full of semen.
  • A goon comments about some cream and says, "Beat your meat with it."
  • Dark sarcastically asks if he'll ever hold a (writing) pen or "t*t" again.
  • Among things Dark says he believes in are masturbation, liquor and nicotine.
  • Nurse Mills puts on some latex gloves as she prepares to put some sort of salve all over Dark's blistered skin. Although we don't see his crotch area, he's apparently nude and he thinks to himself (about his penis), "Do not grow" and tries to think of something boring. She then tells him that she'll have to lift his penis to grease around it. Right then, Dark imagines a bawdy musical number of "Mr. Sandman" with Nurse Mills and other nurses in lingerie or bras (showing cleavage). During this fantasy number, Nurse Mills passionately kisses him as she starts to undo his belt. We also see a handing grasping part of a 1950s era car (symbolic of what Nurse Mills is grasping in reality). Back in the real world, he then apparently climaxes as we see her reaction to that as well as grabbing a number of tissues to wipe him off (we don't see that contact).
  • During a therapy session, Gibbon states to Dark, "You don't like sex." Gibbon then says that he thinks about it all of the time.
  • Gibbon then says that Dark regards sexual intercourse with distaste and fear.
  • We see another view of an earlier sex scene where Dark sees himself in the part of the man on top of the woman (with thrusting, but no nudity).
  • Gibbon then reads part of Dark's book about sex and comments on "spurt out of fevered loins" and something about organs spurting out smelling stains.
  • As a boy, Dark sees his mom having sex with another man in a barn. It starts with the man running his hands across her clothed body and then kissing her neck. She bites his hand, he pushes her back against a wall and holds her hands back against it. There's heavy breathing and passionate kissing and he then removes her panties from below her dress. She then straddles him on the floor (still in her dress), undoes his pants and we then see them having sex with him thrusting between her legs and we see the top of his bare butt as his pants are partially down, and hear related sounds.
  • Dark asks Nicola, "Who are you spreading your legs for now?" He later refers to her always being "in heat."
  • In the past, Dark's mom returns home with a man who isn't happy to see a young boy there. The man then says, "When I f*ck I like to make noise."
  • Dark asks Nicola if it's $500 "a screw" and then asks if that's the top rate for hookers. He then again asks who she's sleeping with you and she says, "Myself, mostly" (he comments on the mostly part).
  • Dark talks about Binney being in the business of buying and selling flesh (meaning he's a pimp).
  • A comment is made about someone using sex to get to scientists at a lab.
  • We see a flashback to Dark's mom having sex with her lover (with thrusting and the top of his bare butt as his pants ride down).
  • Nicola and Binney do some passionate clothed kissing. We then hear sexual sounds and then see Binney having rear entry intercourse with Nicola (seen from in front of her face, thus we can see he's nude behind her, but don't see any explicit nudity). We do see movement and hear more related sounds. He then spanks her, wets one of his fingers and puts it somewhere around her backside (we don't see where, but she reacts to that). We then hear orgasmic sounds from both of them.
  • A comment is made that life and a book are all about sex and lies.
  • Dark tells Nicola that he wants to sleep with her again.
  • The "f" word and the term "joy juice" are used sexually.
  • Dark says about his mom, "They were screwing."
  • A blonde in the past finds a dead man and says, "They should have cut your d*ck off first."
  • A blonde in the past knows Dark is hiding in a closet and asks if he can see her. She then undresses down to her bra and panties, and wonders if he likes what he sees (as she briefly runs her hand down inside her panties and suggestively licks her finger).
  • We see some scantly clad women.
  • SMOKING
  • Dark smokes more than 5 times (past and present and once as a boy), Binney several times, and several other characters smoke.
  • Among things Dark says he believes in are masturbation, liquor and nicotine.
  • An old sign advertises chewing tobacco.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Dark's mom had an affair in the past and then she and young Dark set off for California on a bus.
  • Dark and Nicola have a strained marriage and he complains that she hasn't visited him in three months at the hospital.
  • Dark says that his mother killed herself in a river.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Severe medical conditions that leave one bedridden and how the mind compensates for that.
  • Dark's mom had an affair in the past and then she and young Dan set off for California on a bus.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Two goons grab a woman (who's just had sex with Binney), drag her into a bathroom and proceed to drown her in a bathtub (we her face under the water as well as her legs flailing out of the tub). We later see her body from a distance in some shallow water in the rain. Cops then pull her body through the water.
  • In an imagined bit, Dark twists Binney's arm behind him.
  • A father bangs a wrench against a car quite hard.
  • In a flashback or imagined scene set in the past, we see that two goons have a man bound and gagged at their feet. One then tries to shoot Dark who steps out of the way just in time. A band member, however, is hit in the neck and we see blood spurting out from around his hands at his neck. Dark then shoots back at the goons who keep shooting at him.
  • Benny pulls out a gun (he believes out of sight of Dark), prompting Dark to pull his. Dark then hits him in the gut and holds his and Benny's gun to Benny's head. He then pistol whips Benny with one.
  • A woman with Dark is shot in an alley and he shoots back at the shooters. We see a tiny bit of blood from the woman's mouth.
  • A man pushes Dark's mom back, slaps her once and we hear more such slaps. We later see her bruised and bloodied face.
  • A goon knocks a patient aside as he and his fellow goon race out of a hospital (we also see a worker on the floor as well).
  • Suddenly finding themselves in a desert, two goons hear animal noises and then wildly fire their guns in all directions (but don't hit anything).
  • We see a knife sticking out of a dead man on a couch that has blood in it, as does a nearby wall.
  • A person comes out of a closet and a shot is fired, but we don't see any impact.
  • Two goons throw Dark onto a bed and one then slaps him. They then race the gurney he's on up to a window and proceeds to hit and bend him.
  • A gun battle breaks out between Dark and two men, with Dark shooting one in the head (we see blood from around his hand). He then shoots a gun from the other man's hand.
  • A man shoots another man (we don't see the impact).



  • Reviewed October 27, 2003 / Posted November 14, 2003

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